I started going to conventions in 1986 when I attended Swancon XI. The people at Swancon XII welcomed me and, for the most part, made me feel that I was in a safe space; somewhere I could express myself, be involved, and not feel like I was likely to be judged or harmed.
I attended every Swancon for the next twenty years, and then became an occasional attendee as work and family life demanded more of my time. However, despite that I’ve usually wanted to attend each year and have enjoyed the times when I’ve been able to.
I was greatly disturbed, therefore, to hear increasing reports that Swancon was not a safe place: not safe for women, not safe for children, and often not even a place where people could express their thoughts without fear of censure or judgement. It seemed to me, as I discussed this with a friend, that here was a problem that people like me needed to own, to do something about. And the way to do something is not to point to other people, to name convention committees as people who should do things, or whatever (though those things may have a place). It’s for people like me (and you, if you attend conventions) to stand up and speak out against unacceptable behaviours, to be present and to make convention environments as safe a space as they reasonably can be.
I mention this now because I was appalled to read a little while ago about the case reported on Crankynick’s blog about a woman who had been raped at a Swancon by someone she’d met at a Swancon. Apparently the perpetrator has admitted that he has done this and is unrepentant. I don’t know enough of the details to know what happened, and in this instance, I’m not sure I need to know more than I do. An attendee at a convention has been grievously treated and the person who did this has admitted it. That, it seems to me, is completely unacceptable in modern society (or damned well should be).
Crankynick suggests on this blog that we need to say this in public and private:
This man is not welcome at SwanCon. If he attends he’s going to have a shit time. We will shun and ignore him for the most part, and humiliate him in public if that’s what it takes. If he attends alone he will stay that way, and if he attends with friends they too will be shunned and ignored while they continue to publicly support a man who has sexually assaulted a member of our community. The victim of this assault is not to blame, shouldn’t have to deal with this on her own, and shouldn’t even have to goddam ask for our support.
I join Nick in this. This story is appalling (details are here). The man who has done this is not welcome. The behaviour he has engaged in must not be tolerated. To the extent that I am involved in conventions I agree: this man is not ‘one of my people’, he is not someone I want near me, my family or anyone else. I reject him and call on you to do this same.
I would also apologise to Logansrogue, who I don’t think I’ve ever met, for how badly we have failed her and others like her. If Swancons — if any science fiction conventions — are to continue it must be on the basis that it is understood that this will NOT be tolerated.
As to what I mean when I say say ‘safe space’ – I mean somewhere any person can go and not feel like they will be physically or emotionally harmed. Plainly Swancon has not been that kind of place.
ETA: It was pointed out to me that the events related did not occur at a Swancon, though the people in question did meet at a Swancon. While it’s important to be factually correct, this does not change the point at all.